Durbin Speech Met With Protest at Kennedy School

Feb 4, 2018 by

Around 100 students from across the University spent Thursday evening marching up and down in front of the Kennedy School to protest Senator Durbin’s visit.

Around 100 students from across the University spent Thursday evening marching up and down in front of the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum to protest Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin while he spoke on immigration to a select handful of Harvard affiliates inside.

Some demonstrators said they turned out to rally against what they called Senate Democrats’ too-eager willingness to reopen the government after a three-day shutdown last month. The shutdown began when Republicans refused to pass a bill protecting recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era initiative that gives legal protections to undocumented young people. Durbin was one of 33 Democrats who voted to end the government shutdown instead of negotiating a new DACA bill.

Durbin, one of the original co-sponsors of the Dream Act, recently proposed an immigration reform bill—co-sponsored by Senator Lindsey O. Graham—that would make the DACA program permanent. But the bill would also cancel the visa lottery and limit family-based migration; many protesters said they find both eliminations unacceptable.

Dick Durbin

Dick Durbin speaks at the Institute of Politics Thursday evening. Iulianna C. Taritsa

Bearing signs reading “We Are Not Your Bargaining Chip” and “The U.S. Government Has Never Protected Us,” demonstrators stationed themselves as close to the Kennedy School as possible and chanted slogans like, “Say it loud, say it clear—immigrants are welcome here!” The protesters—accompanied by a live band including at least one tuba-player—began shouting before Durbin took the stage around 6 p.m. and continued until after his speech ended.

A small number of demonstrators infiltrated the building, silently raising signs and keeping them aloft for part of Durbin’s speech.

Hyo-won “Esther” Jeon ’18, who spoke at the protest and said she helped organize the effort, said she thinks Democrats have disregarded several key opportunities to stand by the Dream Act. She said she wishes Democrats would use must-pass legislation—like the spending bill that caused last month’s shutdown—for leverage.

“When we needed them to hold the line down for us, they weren’t doing that,” Jeon said. “Every time they kick the can down the road, all they’re doing is making people more vulnerable to deportation.”

Source: Durbin Speech Met With Protest at Kennedy School | News | The Harvard Crimson

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